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How to deal with conflict in intentional communities

 
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So for a long while I've wanted to put together an intentional community, but until recently I was pretty crushingly poor and hadn't done much research as I thought it would be eternally beyond my grasp. I am extremely fortunate to be in a more stable place now and I'm looking at the future.

As I think through the problem of building community, I'm reminded of the time I once spent serving in a support role in a church. That's a pretty strong community with a clear sense of purpose and mission (or it is supposed to be anyway) with clear, long-standing culture and ethos. Yet even there, horrible conflicts could arise over most anything, ranging from the utterly superficial (the color of the carpet) to the quite profound (the challenge of growing a church that is physically and fiscally strapped).

Given that even with all of the ecclesiastical structure in place, an intentional community as well-defined as a church is rocked by massive conflict, what can I do as a sole person hoping to found a community that will stick together rather than splinter?

To be clear, I am not seeking to build a religious community. To the contrary, my goal is to focus on green living and personal accountability. Religion is simply an easy example of a community with which I have some past familiarity.
 
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I think this is something really important to consider, though I can't say I have an answer. Or, more specifically, that there is a single answer. I know that of the intentional communities that make it beyond the planning stage, most of them fail. I'd say this is almost certainly heavily influenced by internal conflict. People could point to successful ones as a guide-post for conflict resolution and that isn't the worst of ideas, but it isn't really universal either. I suspect a lot of it is going to be a blend of very clear rules on handling conflict and the 'culture' of the individuals who form the community. One group might all be content with simple majority, while another is going to prefer unanimous agreement. Both of those would lead to different forms of conflict and the means of resolving that conflict would look very different. Do you have an idea of what sort of decision making process and leadership structure you'd favor? Knowing that would go a long way towards designing an appropriate conflict resolution method I think.
 
D.W. Stratton
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D. Logan wrote:I think this is something really important to consider, though I can't say I have an answer. Or, more specifically, that there is a single answer. I know that of the intentional communities that make it beyond the planning stage, most of them fail. I'd say this is almost certainly heavily influenced by internal conflict. People could point to successful ones as a guide-post for conflict resolution and that isn't the worst of ideas, but it isn't really universal either. I suspect a lot of it is going to be a blend of very clear rules on handling conflict and the 'culture' of the individuals who form the community. One group might all be content with simple majority, while another is going to prefer unanimous agreement. Both of those would lead to different forms of conflict and the means of resolving that conflict would look very different. Do you have an idea of what sort of decision making process and leadership structure you'd favor? Knowing that would go a long way towards designing an appropriate conflict resolution method I think.



I feel that decisive action is, in a survival setting, generally a better strategy than deliberation, though I'm not advocating recklessness. I suppose that majority would therefore be the preferred mode of political organizing, but probably a complex majority vote to save us from strong-man or Group Think rule.
 
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To me, intentional community is not about hierarchy, voting, organization, or decision making. It is about loyalty, commitment, and devotion to the goals of the community and to it's members.

Being part of an intentional community means that I make the community and it's preservation and smooth functioning the highest purpose in my life. Higher than my ego. Higher than my ideas, or my politics, or my habits.

Having a group of people with a devotion to the community makes a huge difference in how differences are handled.  Knowing that I have vowed to be part of the community for the rest of my life affects every aspect of how I live, work, and play.  I might as well apologize for mistakes right away, and learn how to avoid them in the future. No point holding onto my habits that don't serve the highest purposes of the community.

 
D.W. Stratton
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:To me, intentional community is not about hierarchy, voting, organization, or decision making. It is about loyalty, commitment, and devotion to the goals of the community and to it's members.

Being part of an intentional community means that I make the community and it's preservation and smooth functioning the highest purpose in my life. Higher than my ego. Higher than my ideas, or my politics, or my habits.

Having a group of people with a devotion to the community makes a huge difference in how differences are handled.  Knowing that I have vowed to be part of the community for the rest of my life affects every aspect of how I live, work, and play.  I might as well apologize for mistakes right away, and learn how to avoid them in the future. No point holding onto my habits that don't serve the highest purposes of the community.



I feel you, matte. The problem is, you and I might have a difference if opinion, say, on whether or not you or I have held to those principles. It is entirely possible for two people to look at the same facts and arrive at totally different conclusions. What I'm trying to figure out is how not to have the community split or implode when that kind of thing happens.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I preserve the community by keeping my vows to preserve the community and to hold it sacred. I change my attitudes, habits, opinions, lifestyle, diet, ego, location, or whatever else is necessary to preserve the community. I learn and teach whatever emotional, mental, or physical skills are necessary to preserve the community and help it function well.

I set aside my need to be right in order to preserve the community. I look deep inside myself to find the roots of my problems -- which I like to blame on other people, when I'm really just projecting my own shit onto the community and it's members.

It really sucks -- That moment when I have to say to myself, "Damn! Now I gotta figure out how to keep my vows to preserve the community".   I was raised in an individualistic family, in an individualistic church, in an individualistic society. That childhood programming is deep and strong. There is a lot of joy and satisfaction in learning to set that programming aside for the sake of the community. That setting-aside has done more for my personal growth and development than anything else I have ever encountered.  
 
D.W. Stratton
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I preserve the community by keeping my vows to preserve the community and to hold it sacred. I change my attitudes, habits, opinions, lifestyle, diet, ego, location, or whatever else is necessary to preserve the community. I learn and teach whatever emotional, mental, or physical skills are necessary to preserve the community and help it function well.

I set aside my need to be right in order to preserve the community. I look deep inside myself to find the roots of my problems -- which I like to blame on other people, when I'm really just projecting my own shit onto the community and it's members.

It really sucks -- That moment when I have to say to myself, "Damn! Now I gotta figure out how to keep my vows to preserve the community".   I was raised in an individualistic family, in an individualistic church, in an individualistic society. That childhood programming is deep and strong. There is a lot of joy and satisfaction in learning to set that programming aside for the sake of the community. That setting-aside has done more for my personal growth and development than anything else I have ever encountered.  



Ah. I'm fundamentally opposed to religious systems based on personal experience of horror. Would rather wrestle with conflict than go the religious route. To each their own I guess.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My intentional community is not religious.

 
D.W. Stratton
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
My intentional community is not religious.


I was referencing the individualistic church that has deep and abiding programming. I don't want to use a system derived from religion to found a secular community. It seems counter productive for my purposes.

Edit: oh, I reread your comment. You're saying you are walking away from the religious programming. Gotcha. 👍
 
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